SWORDFISH WHEEL (AEOLIAN STYLE)

Today, we inaugurate our recipe book in English and we will begin with a very Aeolina recipe: the swordish wheel!

This is a recipe that I love: when I was a lovely young bride, leaving in my first “home sweet home”, I started cooking this traditional dish, which tells about Sicily: Swordifish, capers, cherry tomatoes, olives and “cucunci” (they are the olive tree flowers) without forgetting basil and oregano….(what else?!?like George Clooney would say…).

I have never stopped to prepare the Swordfish wheel, especially on Summer during the hot dinners with friends when crickets sing in my garden and a warm wind caresses the air with a wonderful scent of lemon! So, since the Summer is going to start, let’s learn to make this dish!!!
ruota-di-pesce-spada-alla-eoliana

Difficulty: Easy        Preparation time: 10 min.    Cooking time: one hour per kg;

Ingredients for 10/12 people:

  • Swordfish wheel, 1 single slice of least 1,5 Kg/2 kg at least (in Sicily, it is called Cutigghiuni);

  • Cherry tomatoes, 350 gr.;

  • White green olives (to be pitted), 150 gr., possibly preserved in brine (they are very tasty and not soggy);

  • Oregano, 1 bunch;

  • Capers, 1 cup of salted and desalted capers (don’t take capers under vinegar that are soggy and too strong in flavor);

  • Cucunci, a handful;

  • Salt and Pepper To Taste;

  • extra virgin olive oil;

  • a large round baking tray, covered with baking paper.

Let’s prepare the Swordfish wheel:

This is a very simple dish, the secret of which is basically in the skills of the fishmonger (who has to cut the best slice ever) and yours of course…because you will have to stress him very well, in order to achieve the goal!

Go to the fishmonger and ask him to cut a single slice of swordfish wheel (3/4 finger high at least). As soon as you are at home, if you cook it immediately, sprinkle it on both sides of salt, pepper and oil and massage it well so that it absorbs seasoning.

Ruota-di-pesce-spada

Take a round baking tray and cover it with a large sheet of baking paper. Drizzle olive oil on it and place the swordfish wheel in the pan;

Cut the cherry tomatoes into two or four pieces (depends on the size) and green olives, pitted by you;

Add a handful of capers and of cucunci, sprinkle with some oregano and basil leaves; then add oil and pepper grated;

Bake the swordfish wheel at 190 °, closed in the baking paper (make a little foil pouch), for 1 hour each kg. So if the swordfish sword weighs 1,5 kg, it will have to cook for about 90 min.

It’s easy, isn’t it????

As soon as it is ready, put the swordfish wheel into a round plate, sprinkle it with the seasoning and the sauce left in the baking pan. Serve warm and enjoy a wonderful piece of Sicily!

Buon appetito!!!

G.


BAKED ANELLETTI FROM PALERMO

This is what we consider a masterpiece of Sicilian food!The tradition of Sicily is full of many delicious dishes and my mouth’s watering just thinking about them, but the favorite one of my daughter Giada is definitely the famous Baked Anelletti from Palermo.

Sformato-di-anelletti-alla-palermitana

This is so tasty and impressive that at least once in a lifetime you have to try to cook it. It is a very complex dish, but it is worth it.The main feature of this recipe is of course Anelletti, a typical ring-shaped pasta. Nowadays, you can find Anelletti in almost all the well-stocked supermarkets, among the regional specialties of large pasta manufacturers, such as De Cecco.

In Sicily, even other pasta makers, such as Barilla, produce Anelletti, but it is difficult to find a large variety of them, out of my region. This is made of Anelletti, tomato sauce and peas, mixed together in the mold with cheese (the one we call “scamorza”), eggplant, small fried meatballs and grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese.

The process is long and needs several steps but you can prepare the components in different stages and freeze them. In this way, you will have everything you need to complete a special Baked Anelletti for a last-minute Sunday lunch with friends!

I know two very similar versions of this dish. The first version is what we call “classic”: the bottom of the mold is sprinkled with breadcrumbs in order to obtain a nice crunchy crispy on the top of Anelletti, once inverted onto a plate. The second version is the most scenic one but, to be honest, I am not sure you can prepare it as all depends on eggplants. In this last version, you have to coat the bottom of the mold with slices of fried eggplant; this means that if you don’t find very good eggplants, the slices will be irregular and it will be hard to coat the mold well.

Let’s start with the long list of ingredients, starting from meatballs, which is the first thing to prepare.

Difficulty: Medium-high   

Preparation time: 2 hours 30 min      Cooking time: the cooking time of the pasta + 15 min.

Ingredients for meatballs:

–   Minced meat, 500 gr.;

–   Eggs, 2;

–   Pecorino cheese, 1 and 1/2 tablespoon;

–   Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons;

–   breadcrumbs, 2 handfuls;

–   slices of bread (or soft bread wet in milk and squeezed), 1 and half;

–   salt, pepper, nutmeg and parsley to taste.

Process for meatballs:

Let’s start with the meatballs.

If you want to prepare the meatballs in advance and freeze them, please fry meatballs before freezing them. They can stay in the freezer for up to a month without going bad. Don’t freeze them on absorbent paper or silver paper, but directly into a plate or bowl; otherwise they will stick to the paper.

When it’s time to prepare Anelletti, pull them out 10 minutes before you start cooking and dump them frozen in the tomato sauce you are preparing (as explained below). They will shake in a flash!

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and work them with your hands by pressing the minced meat.

As soon as you have a homogeneous and blended mixture, test your meatball in this way: take a pan, put the oil and fry one single meatball; when cold (not hot, otherwise you will not feel the flavors well), taste the fried meatball and check if you have to add something or if it is perfect as it is. In this second option, make small meatballs, place them on a plate and fry them in a pan with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Dry the meatballs with absorbent paper and set aside.

Ingredients for Anelletti:

–   Anelletti, 1 pack (I buy De Cecco, the best quality on the market);

–   tomato sauce, 2 bottles;

–   peas, 300 gr.;

–   red onions, 3 medium;

–   round purple eggplant with dark purple skin (the Sicilian eggplants), 4;

–   scamorza cheese, 1;

–   oil, salt, pepper to taste;

–   butter, 1 knob;

–   Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons;

–   Pecorino cheese, 2 tablespoons ;

–   garlic, 2 cloves;

–   broth, 150 ml;

–   breadcrumbs q.b. (If any);

–   round baking tray.

Let’s prepare the tomato sauce.

Cut 1 onion and put it in a pan with water to cover it. Once softened, fry the onion with oil, salt and a clove of garlic. As soon as you have a golden fried onion, add the tomato sauce, lower the flame, cover and cook for at least 40 min until the sauce is tight (I hate runny sauces). Add plenty of extra virgin oil and fry with a lively flame for 3 minutes. It is important to make a brilliant red dense sauce.

In the meanwhile, prepare the peas. Cut other 2 onions and follow the same procedure for the sauce, add oil, salt and garlic. Once obtained fried onion, add the peas, brown them for few seconds, wet with two ladles of broth and add further ladles, if needed, until the cooking is done. At the end of cooking, the peas will have to be sufficiently dry and not watery. Set of salt and black pepper.

Now, the most “boring” part for people who do NOT come from Sicily: fry eggplants!

Begin by cutting them into slices of about one inch thick; don’t cut them thinner (they will break) or thicker (they will absorb too much oil in cooking).

Frying eggplants is an art: cut the eggplant and put them in layers inside a colander, with a plenty of big salt. This helps to delete the bitter and the vegetable water, thus obtaining crispier and less soggy eggplants. Usually, this is a practice to use only in case of off-season eggplants from greenhouses, but we make this always at home, just for 10/15 minutes, in order to obtain more tasty eggplants.

After about 15/20 minutes, rinse the eggplants one by one, remove the salt and put on a cloth or absorbent paper.

Once fried in extra virgin oil, put the eggplants on a plate covered with absorbent paper and, in the meantime, cut scamorza cheese into thin slices. Now, everything should be in order, but let’s recap the above steps before going ahead:

  • fried meatballs;

  • fried eggplants;

  • cooked peas;

  • cut scamorza.

Now, we have to cook Anelletti.

On the envelope, you will find the cooking time: according to De Cecco, 13 minutes + baking time in the oven. Just trust me and consider 7 minutes as cooking time: that’s definitively the perfect time!

Boil plenty of salted water and add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin oil, so that pasta will not stick together. As soon as it bubbles, drop Anelletti. After 5 minutes, taste them to check if they are salted or not. Set of salt if necessary, but keep in mind that you must also add butter and parmesan cheese.

Once drained, put Anelletti back into the pot and add a large knob of butter, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of pecorino and a generous black pepper grinder. At this point, add the tomato sauce and the peas in the same pot, mix gently thus avoiding to break Anelletti. Set of Parmesan cheese, pepper and seasonings: if it seems dry, add another knob of butter.

Don’t forget that baked Anelletti is really far from being a diet dish, so use condiments!

Now that everything is ready, we have to decide how to present our baked Anelletti.

If you want to opt for the classic version, with breadcrumbs on the bottom of the mold and eggplants only in the dressing (not also on the bottom), there will be a nice crunchy crispy above our Anelletti, once inverted onto a plate. In this case, cut the eggplants into slices and mix them with Anelletti. Grind the baking pan and pour on the bottom an abundant handful of breadcrumbs. Cover with a layer of Anelletti, high 3 fingers, then make a layer of meatballs, a layer of scamorza and finish with a layer of Anelletti. Level with the back of a spoon and put butter flakes above Anelletti before baking.

Sformato-di-anelletti-alla-palermitana

Sformato-di-anelletti-alla-palermitana

Bake at 200 ° for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted: you can check this with a fork.

If you want to opt for the most scenic version with eggplants on the bottom of the mold, take a baking pan, choose the best slices of fried eggplants (without holes, thicker and broader) and begin to dress the bottom of the pan. It is not necessary to grease the pan with butter, as the eggplant oil will make it “non-stick”. If there are some further slices of eggplants available, cut them more and mix with pasta.

Sformato-di-anelletti

Also in this case, put a first layer of Anelletti, high 3 fingers, then make a layer of meatballs, a layer of scamorza and finish with a layer of Anelletti. Level with the back of a spoon and put butter flakes above Anelletti before baking.

Bake at 200 ° for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted: you can check this with a fork.

In the following photo, as you may see, there are not the round purple eggplants but the long ones. This is because, sometimes, it’s hard to find them in Rome; anyway, the final result was not so bad, don’t you think?!?!